The higher education funding debacle has taken a strange turn, with a new survey suggesting that universities are trying a variety of weird and wacky new schemes to attract students. The survey, by building firm Wates, suggests that up to 79% of universities are planning major construction work for next year, with proposed projects ranging from on-campus hotels to an ‘overseas student village’…yes, really!

Other plans included partnerships to build brand new science parks and schemes to share campus space with offices and private residences. The latter speaks of desperate university councils trying to find money to replace funds lost to deep government higher education cuts. But Wates has suggested that another reason for the impressive scale of the planned projects is a need to attract more students and to compete with other universities for applicants.

In the ‘new world’ of higher tuition fees and £27,000 courses, universities have suddenly become much more reliant on student demand than ever before for secure finances. If not enough students apply for a course, it risks being axed, and universities competing to attract as many applicants as possible have led to the sector becoming more consumer driven than ever before. In this new ‘marketplace’ atmosphere, universities are obviously thinking outside the box for innovative ways to attract student numbers by standing out from the crowd. But is a university hotel really the best way to achieve that goal? For one thing, students stay in halls or in rented accommodation whilst completing their studies, so the only possible use a hotel could provide them would be a place for relatives coming to stay.

Certainly a swanky hotel might boost the commercial image of a university, but if the resulting effort turns out to be more Holiday Inn than Hilton, it might also risk tarnishing a university’s image by making it look desperate for funds. If universities are really looking to attract students with off-the-wall construction schemes, here are some ideas we think would be far more popular!

  • Ice rink
  • Roller disco
  • Bowling alley
  • Fast food joint
  • Swimming pool
  • Cinema
  • Underground club
  • Airport (hey, we said off-the-wall!)

Would you choose a uni for any of these assets? Let us know what you think and tell us your ideas for the perfect addition to your university, using the comments box below!